Notes: Stewart takes blame for gaffe

Notes: Stewart takes blame for gaffe

MINNEAPOLIS -- It had all the makings of being a routine play for Twins left fielder Shannon Stewart on Sunday.

Catch a fly ball for the final out. Flip the ball into the seats and give a fan a souvenir. Jog back to the dugout. No problem, it happens all the time.

Actually, it was a big problem this time for the Twins in the first inning.

There were still just two outs.

Minnesota pitcher Joe Mays had already faced seven batters in the first and trailed by a 4-0 score when Alex Cora came to the plate with runners on first and second base. Cora hit a foul ball to left field that was caught by Stewart for the second out, and he tossed it into the corner seats.

Kevin Millar was awarded two bases and allowed to score from second. Doug Mirabelli was sent from first to third base. Stewart was charged with an error. The Twins would lose the game, 11-7, to the Red Sox.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire blamed the gaffe on a long inning where a lot of pitches were thrown -- and hit.

"Things like that happen when you don't get the boys off the field," Gardenhire said. "Funny things happen."

"Afterwards you can kind of chuckle about it," Mays said. "At the time, you just feel horrible for the man. He made a mistake. It looks like I made more mistakes than he did today."

Stewart, who went 2-for-5 with two runs scored, did not let himself off the hook so easily.

"No excuses about anything," Stewart said. "I know it was a long inning. I looked up [at the scoreboard] and saw two strikes. I thought it was two outs. I'm mad about it. I messed up. I'm very frustrated about it. I know we were losing, but you can't make that mistake out there."

Bartlett optimistic: Take two of Jason Bartlett's 2005 season with the Twins wasn't off to a blazing start, but the club noticed a difference in the shortstop after he returned from Triple-A Rochester.

This, despite the fact that Bartlett is 3-for-18 (.167) since his recall Aug. 1. He went 2-for-4 with two singles and two runs scored Sunday.

"He's doing fine," Gardenhire said. "You sit there and try to judge a kid playing against the best pitching staff in baseball. It's kind of unfair to say he hasn't gotten any hits or got one hit."

Gardenhire was referring to the Oakland pitching staff, including Barry Zito and Rich Harden, which buried the entire Minnesota lineup earlier in the week.

Bartlett was the Twins' Opening Day shortstop but was optioned to Rochester on May 19 after struggling. At the time, the 25-year-old admitted he was battling with confidence both at the plate and in the field. He straightened things out with the Red Wings, batting .332 with five home runs and 33 RBIs in 61 games.

This time around, Bartlett appears more comfortable and feels like he belonged in the Majors.

"The defense is going good. My confidence is good," said Bartlett, who is batting .229 with two homers and 12 RBIs in 33 games for Minnesota this season. "I feel good out there. I'm just not producing the hits. It's just a matter of time."

Injury report: The Twins were hoping that a sore right knee for infielder Michael Cuddyer wasn't serious. Playing first base, Cuddyer left Sunday's game before the eighth inning and was at the hospital to undergo an MRI exam while the team flew without him to Seattle.

Cuddyer first hurt his knee Saturday sliding into second base in the ninth inning, before he went home for the winning run Minnesota's 4-3 win over Boston. He didn't report any problems until running out an infield hit in the seventh inning Sunday. Terry Tiffee took his place defensively in the eighth.

Team physician Dr. John Steubs will review the MRI results Monday. Even if Cuddyer has no tears or major sprain, he still could be out several days. Gardenhire indicated a trip to the disabled list was a possibility.

Rough outings: A seventh-inning strikeout of Roberto Petagine ended struggling reliever J.C. Romero's streak of nine batters faced without recording an out over his last three games. In that span, the lefty allowed five earned runs, six hits and three walks.

Romero owns a 14.75 ERA over his last seven appearances while also allowing six of his last eight inherited runners to score.

First-inning fireworks: Mays has a 6.00 ERA in the first inning of games this season (14 earned runs in 21 games), but that's only fourth worst in the rotation. He trails Brad Radke (8.22), Kyle Lohse (6.30) and Johan Santana (6.22).

"It's not like they're not going out and preparing for the first inning," Gardenhire said. "It just happens that we throw a lot of strikes early in the game. We always have. The teams come out swinging against us and they score runs."

Big crowds: Sunday's crowd of 40,982 fans was the sixth time the Twins eclipsed the 40,000 mark this season. Last season, Minnesota had three crowds of 40,000 or more. The three-game Twins-Red Sox series drew 119,769 fans to the Metrodome this weekend.

Coming up: The Twins will rack up more airplane miles during a 10-day, nine-game road trip to Seattle, Oakland and Chicago. First up are the Mariners on Monday at 9:05 p.m. CT. Carlos Silva (7-5, 3.27 ERA) will pitch for Minnesota against right-hander Gil Meche (10-8, 5.04 ERA).

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.